E.B. White’s Here Is New York will never suffer from a lack of fans. So I don’t feel bad (especially since we sell at least 100 copies a year for the old fellow) posting a link to a contrarian view, published in Salon back in the pre-9/11 era. According to Charles Taylor, White was a big old phony, his descriptions of NYC a string of cliches:
Thus, White can
encounter the residents of the Lower East Side sitting on their stoops
on a hot summer night and banish the crowding and poverty by
transforming it into “the nightly garden party of the Lower East Side
… It is folksy [emphasis added] here with the smell of warm
flesh and squashed fruit and fly-bitten filth in the gutter, and
cooking.” Visit exotic New York! See the quaint and colorful peasants!
“A large, cheerful Negro” panhandler begging coins from a crowd exiting
a Broadway show prompts White to observe that “a few minutes of
minstrelsy improves the condition of one Negro by about eight dollars.
If he does as well as this at every performance, he has a living right
there.” (And eventually, no doubt, a summer place in the Hamptons.)
The rest here.
p.s. Speaking of dead New Yorker writers, RIP John Updike (1932-2009).